“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once. I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” – Bruce Lee
This entry of the dragon is for guitar players and yep, Bruce Lee is right. In truth, I find that many guitar players out there are confused as far as what to practice and how to practice. I can understand why. No one really wants to talk about boring practice routine. That’s ok. I’ll just do it right here.
Read the quote above and understand that what Bruce Lee is talking about is focus and the art of mastering something by repetition. One of the definitions of mastering something is the ability to be able to call on something quickly and perform it exceptionally well.
Here is how this applies to guitar playing.
First of all, many guitar players have already figured out that to stay at the same level technically they are at, they need to at least practice 45 minutes a day. Anything else and you are sliding back. Anything more, give or take, and you’ll be gaining. So, while we are here, I’ll chime in that there are no plateaus in guitar playing. We never arrive and stay at the same level. If we are not getting better, we are getting worse.
Here’s the deal. When guitar players practice they usually jump around the fret board playing parts of someone else’s solos they know, a lick here and there and then they work on something they feel is not yet up to up. But, this is only one type of practice.
If you want to get terrifyingly fast and fluid, we need to check out the Bruce Lee quote.
Instead of playing dozens of 75% there licks, choose one lick and play it over and over and over again. Don’t practice any other ones. Just keep nailing that same lick until the cows come home. Doing so will help break barriers and will allow you to obtain a complete new level of performance out of that one lick.
Here’s where the great bonus appears. Read the next sentence slowly, so you understand. Because the way the guitar is set up, meaning that only frets and strings make up the fret board, anytime you play anything similar to the lick you’ve mastered, anywhere on the fret board – it is already almost if not as good as the lick you practiced. This is one of the great secrets of guitar playing.
Get it? It is absolutely true.
If you want to develop your right hand picking practice one or two licks until they sound incredible. Master them. Own them. This is much more beneficial that practicing 25 licks that never reach a superb level.
How much should you practice the lick? Well, it depends on good you want to get. I used to have about 5 licks like these and I’d put on a timer and watch it while I played each lick for let’s say 5-7 minutes non stop. I had a few licks for right hand picking, one for pull off, one for a long legato run across the neck and so on. I’d play them with a timer at the beginning at every practice session.
Paul Gilbert (Racer X, Mr. Big) practiced his famous Al DiMeola guitar lick so much and got so good at at it that his early guitar shred style was based around it. Now, that’s mastering something.
I hope this helps some of you a bit. Horns Up!